Severing a joint tenancy

Legal clinic round up – August 2018

Every month we hold free legal clinics in Kingsbridge and Dartmouth. 

Over the summer we helped lots of people with a variety of legal issues, including a couple who needed help with an issue with their landlord, several people with questions about wills, a man who was in dispute with his siblings over their parents’ property and a man who wanted help chasing the solicitor that had taken several years to deal with his wife’s estate. 

One lady told us that she had separated from her husband and they had decided to get divorced. They couldn’t afford to complete the legal process straight away, and he had moved into rented accommodation with his new girlfriend and she remained in the marital home.   

She wanted to make a new will and wanted to leave her share in the house to her adult children. We advised her that as they were joint owners of the property and owned it in equal shares it was most likely owned by them as joint tenants. This meant that if she died her half share of the property would automatically pass to her ex-husband.

She was surprised to learn that it would not make any difference if she made a will, unless she took steps to change the legal basis on which they owned the property. To make sure her share of the property passed on her death to who she wanted, she would need to sever the joint tenancy, so that they owned the property as tenants in common.

She could do this without her husband’s consent, but she would need to tell him what she was doing by serving a notice on him.  Checking how a property is owned is very easy provided it is registered with the Land Registry.